Commentary by Gaurab Bose
War is time of social unrest where people become ruthless and fail to respect even the most basic customs that they would otherwise follow. The brunt of war is not only felt by the battling soldiers, but also by their loved ones. In the poem, the poet grieves the war victims who cannot be returned home, buried and mourned the traditional Christian way, rather, their corpses simply lie on the battlefield, amidst all the terrifying sounds of warfare. The poem uses prominent literary features to illustrate both the untimely fate of the war-victims due to the monstrous nature of war, and the effect this has on their families.
First and foremost, the title is a striking aspect of the poem as it uses words like “Anthem” and “Doomed Youth”. The former serves as a tool for the poem, so that the poet can use the sounds of warfare and compare it to an Anthem, which is representative of the song heard at a conventional funeral. The soldier’s fate is now such that the horrific sounds of war serve to take the role of the “orisons” that would have otherwise have been formally delivered to him. “Doomed Youth” is significant of the poet’s belief in the inevitable demise of the soldier’s seeking war. Similarly, it can be believed that they are doomed to hell as they are stained with sins and also fail to receive the proper rituals at their death.
The structure of the poem is a Petrarchan sonnet. However, Owen deviates from the convention of the Sonnet, which generally bears a romantic theme, as he depicts a more morose and melancholic theme, which superimposes with war. The first eight lines are the octet and the succeeding six lines are the sestet. The structure is important with regard to the context as it divides the poem into two parts, to make two separate points. The first talks about the monstrosity of war and the horrific sounds that accompany it, while the second focuses on the families who have lost their...